Thursday, April 03, 2014

Christian dilemma: seemingly fine coach, but questionable long-term option

There a few different types of college basketball coaches. There are the ascending icons who win every step of the way until they reach a destination job. There are the guys who get their shot, don’t win enough and are never heard from again. Finally, there are a few guys who manage to carve out a space in between. These guys win and know basketball, but never stay in one place too long. Politics, a little losing, or another opportunity come along and the guy is gone. They are almost placeholder coaches. I feel like Jim Christian is a placeholder. I am more optimistic than most about the hire, but doubt he will be here in five years.

For a school that built its basketball reputation as a stepping stone for ascending coaches, getting a placeholder seems like a waste of time. I will write more about the process, but I am not fooling myself that we should have come up with a bigger name. This isn't about that. It is about hiring a coach who would have been a better fit and had more upside. For all the questions about Addazio, his fit and his ability to recruit were never in doubt. Both of those qualities can cover a lot of holes and mend a lot of fences.

We cannot overlook Christian's ability to win consistently in the MAC. Just like we cannot overlook his underwhelming time at TCU or his reasons for leaving that job (short version: fit). The MAC success tells me that when the playing field is level (relatively speaking) he can outcoach the majority of his conference. The struggles at TCU shows that he is not a miracle worker. If he didn't like TCU's place in the basketball landscape or the school's support for basketball, how is he going to feel about Boston and trying to win in the ACC?

The aspect of this hire that most perplexes me is Christian's recruiting reputation. He's the opposite of Addazio and a blank slate throughout the region. Can he change now? Does he have an ace recruiter ready to join him? If he wants real success, he will have to find some way to connect to elite talent.

I will be patient with Christian. I think he can get BC back to being a bubble team. Maybe he can do more. I don't know. I just feel like the next few years will be a pitstop in his career and uneventful time in our basketball history.


NEDofSavinHill said...

BC has done quite well hiring coaches with Ohio connections. York came from Bowling Green and TOB was a native of Cincinnati. If Christian is half as good as those two everyone will be pleasantly surprised. Definitely an upgrade over the prior coach. Best of luck to Coach Christian.

CT said...

I'm surprised by people's surprise. This seems perfectly emblematic of the BC Way.

Dazz, despite his lukewarm stint at Temple, at least had the benefit of learning how to run a program from one of the very best: Urban Meyer. He knows what elite talent and elite stewardship means.

Willing to keep an open mind, but didn't we just go through the very same thing with Donahue? Does JC know conference caliber talent? Donahue certainly didn't.

Well, anyway, welcome to Boston College, Coach Christian. Lots of room to rebuild, lots of room in Conte.

mod34b said...

"questionable long-term option"

I am not too concerned there.

I am concerned about the short term.

Hoib said...

Daz the sequel lets hope it's as good as GF2

The press release is almost word for word the same as Daz.


You mention bubble team like it's nothing. PC was a bubble team this year and we would love to be where they are. If this guy inheriting this mess can get us to the bubble in 3 or 4 years. He'll be a heck of a coach.

Hoib said...

Forgot to add to prior, seems like no one wants Howland. I wonder why?

Bravesbill said...

Well I finally found something that's worse than the HIMYM finale.

Napolean Bonaparte said...

He played at Rhode Island. That's where Al Skinner coached. And he's also from New York - that's where Jim O'Brien grew up. Yes - all good signs.

ATL_eagle said...


From what I understand about Howland, he is asking for more than any of the schools with openings could afford.

Lenny Sienko said...

You are correct about the press release...even down to the "family" meme.

I wanted Bruce Pearl...barbecues notwithstanding. I would have settled for Skerry or Doolley...I don't get Christian. His recruiting background is JUCO . BC doesn't do JUCO, unless Mr. Mahoney is gone.

Christian does not do rebuilding. There is no "fit" here.

"Ever to Whatever".

Hoib said...


I wanted Bruce too. I bet out of all the hires in the class of 14 he'll be the first to get his team to the dance.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

The Alumni and student body need to be heard. This was a horrible hire and there is no "process" that would result in Jim Christian being the right "fit". This is deplorable and should not be tolerated.

Unknown said...


JERZeagle said...

CT, you make the mention of ACC caliber talent. I am with you but I think its pretty easy to identify which guys are major conference caliber than not.

I felt like Donahue a) couldn't pitch the top talent or b) purposefully burned resources to try and recruit his type of player i.e. Eddie Odio

At the acc level, Xs and Os win games, but its the talent that gets you to a level where you can win games. I really hope this guy has some ace up his sleeve to sell the program.

mod10aeagle said...

After all this whining and wrist slitting, I don't think I've ever rooted as hard for a team and a coach as I will be for the Eagles and Coach Christian next season.

eagleboston said...

I agree Mod 10. You would think these whining trolls would have learned something after the Daz hire.

Michael said...

Reality is the Head Coach is a figurehead. I did not think much of Al but he had very good to great assistants. Unfortunately for Steve, the program dropped when Joe Jones went to BU, and the assistants did not seem like ACC guys. I don't really know but things did drop when Joe left. Let's see the staff, and then we talk....

Walter said...

This isn't super apropos of anything, but part of our inability to land both top notch talent (on court and coaching) must have to do with our fans and the fanbase.

If we could develop a more loyal, enthusiastic fanbase, the atmosphere at Conte would be more consistent and appealing.

I feel similarly about football. Obviously it's a chicken and egg argument (good teams would attract more people vs. better atmosphere attracts higher talent), but I still believe with enough coordinated effort, the powers that be (marketing, administration) could create a better environment.

Hoib said...


Wake has a loyal fan base yet they are in same boat as us. All that matters is recruiting. I hope Christians L.I. Roots will help us in the city. It' been ages since we had anyone good from there. I think he'll have trouble in N.E. Going against Ollie and Cooley.


I don't understand the continued knock of Al, how he did it doesn't matter, look at his record. We might never get to that level again. Joe jones? He's the one who got us these beauties that Christian will be saddled w/ till he can get some good players in here finally.

EL MIZ said...

it is entirely fair to wonder if this guy is the best candidate, after over two weeks of radio silence. i look at the resume and scratch my head. he's never won an NCAA tournament game. he hasn't made an NCAA tournament since Bush was president. he has recruited a lot of JuCo kids, which simply doesn't fly at BC. his recruiting ties to the northeast are scant. i just do not understand the fit at all.

Hopkins at Syracuse had never been a head coach, but he is among the best recruiters in college basketball of the northeast and has been an integral part of teams that have won it all. he had some negatives (maybe he jumps back to Cuse?; never been a HC) but at least you know if you sign him the caliber of player is going to improve. Dooley at FGSU is also among the best recruiters in the country, and ticks the box as well for being on a staff that has won it all. he had a nice first season with FGSU. even Tim O'Shea at Bryant had similar success to Christian at Ohio, but went to BC, is from the northeast, and has done a "program rebuild." all of those guys seem like WAY better candidates.

i hope hope hope that Christian proves me wrong, obviously. i want BC to have a good basketball team. i pray i'm wrong. but taking everything into consideration objectively, i'd rank Christian not even among my top 5 (i'd rather roll the dice on Walter McCarty than hire Christian, at least thats a swing for the fences hire).

i just don't see how hiring a guy with this background can lead to anything other than, at best, mediocrity, and at worst, perennial cellar dwelling like we just had with Donahue.

this article makes me feel slightly better about the hire

prove me wrong, Jim! prove all of us wrong!

GP11 said...

The JuCo background doesn't scare me. A good recruiter/coach can adapt to his situation. The TCU situation is a little more troubling as BC needs a big rebuild. But TCU also is not BC. Kids coming up through high school still remember Craig Smith and Tyrese Rice and can see Jared Dudley and Reggie Jackson every day in the NBA. There's a foundation to build on, even if that foundation has sustained some cracks over the past four years.

I hope Christian is able to prove everyone wrong. I'm sure he either has heard or will hear about the current sentiment and hopefully that lights a fire under him. I truly hope this is a Daz situation, where Bates found the right guy instead of the marquee guy. Only time will tell I guess.

To those saying it's unfair to question the process or the credentials, you're wrong. There were two big-name, proven coaches who were free agents (Howland and Pearl). There was a successful coach at a Jesuit university who took a pay-cut to get to a school with a worse bball history but a more stable situation (Buzz Williams). There were hot assistant coaches that were proven recruiters (Hopkins). Questioning the hire, the process, or the administration's commitment to basketball (i.e. money) are all totally fair. No matter what, let's get behind this guy and see what we can do. This season was a disappointment but if the key guys stay, we can surprise people with lower (and perhaps more fair) expectations.

Hoib said...


Thanks for the link. I disagree w/ the premiss though. In the past we didn't have the money. We Made the ACC for the $. So if you are going to play in this league you should spend accordingly.

I wonder if we will ever find out what happened W/ Hopkins? Could he not commit long enough to the job, or was he just unimpressive in the interview? You would think BC would leak the answer to some publication.


I don't think the key guys are key guys. They are 8 & 24 guys. Even if I'm wrong they're all gone in a year. I think the book is in on them, I'd rather see the minutes go to new guys so they get experience right away to see what we'll have going forward. I know it'll be painful to watch, but I think it's the best way to go in the long run.

blist said...

I think money came into play. We can't pay BBall coach more than football, and we have to realize that we have to pay the god-awful Donahue too. We wanted Steve gone, we got that. We just have to accept the less than amazing replacement. I think they guy has some potential to be a good coach for us, but based on how he treated TCU and Ohio, kit's clear he's not a BC guy and will be gone for what he thinks are greener pastures one day

GP11 said...


We don't have new guys. Anderson, Hanlan, and Rahon are our three best players. And they were 16-17 players a year before. Give them a chance to come in with low expectations, a summer of soul-searching, and some major chips on their shoulders. And if those three leave in some fashion, who are we going to bring in at this point?

Hoib said...


I think that 13 record is a huge head fake. You take the last 6 games out of the 100 games these guys have played and you get a more accurate assessment of who they are. Those 6 games were against conference bottom feeders.
I think the JUCO thing could be good to start w/ if we can find a guy or 2 who can defend in the paint and finish @ the rim we would be immediately better. After watching Anderson for 3 years I'm convinced he can't do it. I'm also assuming till shown otherwise we will get nothing out of Clifford. To repeat even if I'm wrong they're all gone in a year anyway.

Thomas said...

Hanlan's returning?

Napolean Bonaparte said...

Somebody posted this elsewhere about the search consultant , Eddie Fogler, retained by Bates - please say it isn't true: "Fogler’s best placement has to date produced a record only 4 games over .500 – Tom Crean at Indiana. A MAJORITY of his hires have, respectively, upon termination left their programs at nearly 30 games under .500. He has a miserable track record."

mod34b said...

Can any of the basketball wonks out there tell us about Christian's style of play? offense? pace/tempo? defense?

Type of players he needs?

bceagle93 said...

Instead of blaming Bates, I think everyone needs to accept that the real person driving the bus with BC athletics is Fr. Leahy. That's what makes BC different than many of the other programs in the ACC -- we will never have an AD or coach that will have the freedom to swing for the fences as long as Fr. Leahy is running the show.

I don't think it's so much an issue of not wanting to pay for good coaches or ADs, but Leahy simply will not allow anyone's ego or ambition to get too big that it overshadows him or the University. Why do you think BC has the equivalent to Coach K, Dean Smith or John Wooden in hockey? Because York loves coaching at BC, plays nice with the administration, and doesn't make waves. If his ego got bigger, he'd be gone. GDF made some aggressive moves early, but once his ego got too big, he was gone. If Daz is able to keep things moving in the right direction and win an ACC championship, he soon will be gone as well.

For better or worse, BC is never going to be like other ACC schools where the athletic department has the freedom to make ambitious hires and keep them as long as we have Fr. Leahy (and I am not saying this is the worst thing, btw). If you accept this, then you might look at the Christian hire in a different light.

Napolean Bonaparte said...

You may be right bce93 - or at least partially right. Has Leahy ever been interviewed in any depth for his philosophy on BC Athletics and collegiate athletics generally? Has he ever publicly stated his views on those subjects? It would be an appropriate project for the Heights.

SaturdaysOnShea said...

I agree that it may be time for Leahy to step away from this position, but that does not guarantee that the New England Province is then going to go and appoint a President who sees the importance of athletics.

The way to send a message is through the check book. But there just aren't enough people who care as passionately as we do to make a dent. And besides, Athletics gets money from the general fund anyway, so unless you stop donating wholesale, they'll never feel the pinch.

All the biggest donors care about is being able to bring their friends, family, and clients to their Robsham Parking lot and tailgate before a game.

Scott said...

Awesome post, right on point.

Placeholder smacks of a pejorative, but I'll be thrilled if he finds a way yo make into a tough, competitive bubble team that no one wants to play. Even more excited if he can smooth out the scholarships so we're not forced to recruit 4-5 new starters every 4 tears. If he can get the program there, I view that as a huge success regardless and well worth the 5 year holdover.

BC BBall has too many holes to fix all at once. If we get back to stable footing,then we look for the ascender

mod10aeagle said...

Yes, absolutely, we should consider ejecting the president of the university for his role in hiring Christian. You guys are nuts.

Puppydogs said...

First off, I seldom comment on message boards or blogs. I guess I am a unreconstructed lurker, but enjoy the banter nevertheless. Secondly, I am closing in on 50 years as a BC basketball fan and just passed my 45th anniversary as a graduate. I don't live in Boston and rarely get to games, but BC sports is still my main connection to the school. I suspect it is for many of the alumns both in New England and farther afield. Somehow, the administration loses sight of that. While Daz had a good year last year, the jury may still be out on him (see Temple). Now we had a bizarre hire for the other flagship program. Hockey is great - I follow that too - but try and engage someone in the south or west about college hockey and they will look to you like you are speaking Urdu. Football and basketball rule - the college sports program on Sirius/XM is only about those two sports. When your school becomes irrelevant in those sports, your school is totally irrelevant in college sports.

What concerns me the most is that for 40 years I have given money to the school. If this hiring - and hiring process - is indicative of how they spend money (or don't when warranted)then I am not willing to give them more of mine. One can only imagine how they screw up the maintenance of the plant, the negotiations with workers, the containment of costs. No wonder they can never get anything done with Newton or Boston - these people are incompetent. They will have to prove to me that they are a worthy recipient of my charity when there are so many better managed institutions out there crying for help.